CANNON & CRATER
My West Coast plan was to fly to Portland, spend time in the city and downtown areas, and then rent a car and drive to LA, stopping at whatever I wanted along the way. After my time dowtown, I headed to the airport to pick up my car. A white Jeep Patriot with California plates awaited me in the Alamo parking lot. I threw my bags in the trunk, put on my “Drive” playlist and off I went. Little did I know this was the start of a life changing road trip. The first stop before heading south was Cannon Beach.
For whatever reason, I’ve always wanted to see this beach. It’s about a 1.5 hour drive from Portland, filled with incredible landscapes the entire way. You drive through thick, tall forests and winding roads that never end and then suddenly, you’re at what seems like the edge of the world. A rocky coastline kisses the Pacific and it’s simply the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen.
I actually yelped when I saw the coastline peep through the trees. I found a quiet street lined with cedar shook homes and a small beach access point at the end of it. I collected my gear and took off toward the tall dune grass. The second I made it to the end of the street, there she was gazing back at me. The Pacific Ocean. I couldn’t do much but stare, so stare I did. I breathed in the salty air, let the crisp wind tousle the hair poking out from under my hat and let my feet sink into the sand beneath them.
This entire trip changed my life, but I feel it really kicked off the second I stepped on this beach. I got there early enough to watch the fog burn off among the mountains and just walked with no agenda. I took my time along the coastline, watching beachgoers and their dogs play fetch among the crashing waves. I listened to water tumble onto the shoreline and against Haystack Rock and truly let my skin soak up the bright sunshine. Not a single thing pulled me in any direction and I felt at ease, truly peaceful. I thought of how special it’d be to be share this moment with someone you love. I could have sat on that beach forever and it still wouldn’t have been enough.
Sadly, I knew my time there had to come to an end. There were other stops in town to make before heading south. So I took one final deep breath of the dewey, ocean air and said farewell to my newfound favorite place. But not before vowing I’d be back as soon as I possibly could.
After seeing the coast, I headed to Bend, Oregon. It was simply a place to stop and sleep before heading to Crater Lake the following day. The drive from Portland to Bend is around 3 hours so I grabbed some dinner and hit the road. I arrived to the historic mill district of Bend in just enough time to check into my hotel, re-pack my bags for Crater Lake and get some rest.
I woke up early the next morning, which wasn’t too difficult since my body still thought it was on East Coast time. I filled my Jeep with gas, picked up a coffee and hit the road well before sunrise.
Since Crater Lake’s access roads close during the winter, typically October to May, there is only one way in and out to get to the Rim Village visitors center. Unless you have snow shoes or proper equipment, you can’t access trails, but Rim Village boasts some pretty breathtaking views with no hike or snow shoe required. All you need is 4 wheel drive, a little bit of luck and mild weather. Access to Rim Village is a toss up most of winter since it snows an incredible amount annually. Luckily, a web cam shows the current road conditions so I could watch day by day to make sure it was safe and open for me to go. And for whatever reason, the stars aligned for me that day. The weather could not have been more perfect. It was a blue bird day.
The trees became thicker and thicker as I climbed the mountain. There was a constant hum of packed snow under my tires and the faintest broadcast played on the radio. I didn’t pay any attention to it, I was too distracted by what lay ahead of me. The sun crept through the cracks of the trees and actually sparkled when it hit the stark white snow. I got to the top, parked my car and headed for the nearest edge.
Crater Lake is a recessed volcano. It’s the deepest lake in the United States with a remarkable depth of 1,943 ft. It is in fact one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. No photo or video does it justice. I feel you have to stand directly in front of it to appreciate the vastness of it.
One of my favorite songs is Holocene by Bon Iver. I’ve listened to it probably 1,000 times and every time I listen, I can’t help but dwell on what it means. I’ve always imagined there’s a perfect place to listen to that song, almost like being in the exact right place at the right time, but never have come across it. Well, standing there, at the edge of this giant crater, that song played in my head. In that moment I felt the lyrics and myself all at once. Although I wasn’t doing my absolute best, and I was still searching to find myself, I was sure in that moment I was in the exact right place at the right time. That I was worth everything and nothing all at once, but I’d be okay.
I found myself there, not a soul around, truly alone. I lingered as long as I could. Like Cannon Beach, I could have stayed forever.
Oregon, you mended apart of me I was sure could not be fixed. Your cities, your roads, your sand, your snow and your mountains filled me up when I was empty. With a full heart and gas in the tank, I headed towards my next destination, California.